During the school year, More Than A Meal gives people in need a place to go in Oxford every Tuesday.
Since September 2009, the organization has provided services such as eye screenings, health checks, financial planning and flu shots, as well as entertainment like arts, crafts and music for Oxford residents. Each Tuesday, between 80-120 people are served at the Stone Center on Washington Avenue.
Anna Langley, who is in the UM Foundation at Ole Miss and has served on the board of directors since 2011, is the current president of More Than a Meal and is responsible for training the meal supervisors, who oversee the event on a rotating basis. She said that the mission of More Than a Meal is to serve the community.
“We want to provide the people of Oxford and Lafayette County with good food, encouragement, and a sense of community,” Langley said. “This is accomplished by providing a warm meal, fellowship and tutoring every Tuesday night.”
Founder and current Director of College Interns Kristy Bridgers was serving on a local affordable housing committee when she realized there was a need in the community for a place where individuals could gather for food, fellowship and various other self-help services. At first, various churches offered their spaces for the meal, but in 2010, it moved to the Stone Center for consistency.
“We want each meal to be a place like we are having people over for dinner,” Bridgers said. “Our goal is to strive for fellowship, education and be a place to foster relationships. Our mission is to be a place to gather and share life, as we share a meal together.”
Providing food for a single More Than A Meal can cost as much as $500, but this cost is often offset by donations and volunteer work from the community. Churches like The Orchard, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church host different weeks throughout the year and provide the food and resources for the event. Ole Miss Greek organizations also contribute resources and volunteers. Volunteers are capped at 25 per semester to maintain a higher ratio of attendees to volunteers, but walk-ins are always accepted.
Mae Pegues, who has lived in Oxford all her life, is a regular at More Than A Meal. She found out about the program through her sister, who read about it in the newspaper. She is currently working to earn her GED, which she says comes with tutoring help through More Than A Meal and the Able Program, administered by Oxford Public Library.
Pegues takes care of her two grandkids, and says that the weekly hot meal and toiletries help to sustain her.
“I’m very appreciative of More Than a Meal because if it wasn’t for them,” she said, “there would be a lot of people in Oxford going to bed hungry and unaided. With a hot meal and hygiene products, they relieve my grocery bill.”
Pegues says that hopefully she will get her GED soon, and one day be able to repay More Than A Meal and help others like her.
“One day, hopefully, when I can get on my feet, I want to have the same heart these people (at More Than A Meal) have or giving back to the community.”
To volunteer or donate, visit mtamoxford.org or the Stone Center at 423 Washington Ave. on Tuesdays from 4-6 p.m.